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Any human resource consulting firm will remind you that employees need to conduct themselves professionally at all times, even during holiday parties. Workers need to remember to dress suitably, represent their company well and refrain from any inappropriate behavior. Unfortunately, the provision of alcohol complicates matters by making employees' behavior somewhat unpredictable.

While it is impossible to foresee every possible consequence of serving alcohol during office parties, you can work with HR services to craft policies that will minimize any potential damage and liability resulting from the actions of intoxicated workers. The key is to make such policies known to your employees long before the event takes place.

Courts pay attention to alcohol
According to an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management, most states have social host liability laws, which make employers legally responsible for any negative outcomes stemming from the provision of alcohol at social events they host.

"The court cases tend to turn on whether the employers served alcoholic beverages," Steven Harz, a partner in the labor and employment department at the law firm of Archer & Greiner, told the news source.

To protect your company from any legal issues, you can follow these pivotal tips, which come from SHRM and HR Hero:

  1. Remind workers to conduct themselves professionally. Before the event takes place, make sure your employees remember the company policies regarding sexual harassment, bullying and other matters of conduct.
  2. Limit or nix provision of alcohol. Your safest bet is to not serve any alcohol at the office party. If that doesn't seem practical, find a way to control the pace of drinking. You can hand out two – and only two – drink tickets for each employee, or limit the service of alcohol to only certain time periods.
  3. Host the party in a hotel with discounted room rates. Offering employees a place to stay for the night helps ensure they stay off the road after the party.
  4. Host the party in a restaurant. Professional bartenders can cut off partygoers who've had too much to drink.
  5. Serve hearty food. Snacks that have protein and starch absorb alcohol and help slow the rate of intoxication.
  6. Don't serve drinks that are too sweet. Sweet drinks make beverages seem less alcoholic than they actually are.
  7. Offer transportation. By reimbursing cab rides or offering other transportation options, no one drunk gets behind the wheel.
  8. Hold the party on a weeknight. People are less likely to get inebriated if they need to work the next day.
  9. Invite family. If spouses and children are allowed to attend, employees may behave more appropriately.